Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Details About Daniel Pearl's Murder

A 3 1/2 year investigation into the kidnapping and murder of the American journalist shows that 27 men were involved in the crime—and 14 of them remain free on the streets of Pakistan.

Almost nine years ago, on January 23, 2002, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped off the streets of Karachi, Pakistan, brutally killed a week or so later, beheaded, and chopped into 12 pieces. In July 2002, four men were convicted of Pearl’s murder, including mastermind Omar Sheikh and three men involved in sending out ransom notes to the world. Pakistan closed the case. The U.S. let the case go dormant, with one FBI agent told by his boss, “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

In “The Truth Left Behind: Inside the Kidnapping and Murder of Daniel Pearl,” a 3 1/2 year investigation by the Pearl Project, reveals that, in fact, justice was not served. Leads weren’t followed. Suspects weren’t interviewed. And alleged co-conspirators weren’t prosecuted. The truth was left behind. The Pearl Project is a faculty-student investigative reporting project at Georgetown University published by the Center for Public Integrity. What we uncovered is a tangled web of militancy, extremism, and terrorism in Pakistan. What we’ve learned is that there were 27 men involved in the crime. Of those men, 14 remain free on the streets of Pakistan, one of them allegedly making suicide vests in Waziristan.

A window into “the Punjabi Taliban” that threatens Pakistan today, the case reveals the dangerous nexus between the militancy in Pakistan and al Qaeda. It offers many lessons in trying to understand Pakistan, from the rule of law to the use of Karachi as a safe haven for militancy and the draw of extremist Islamic interpretation, such as Deobandism, to young men described in our report as “sons of darkness.”

If the U.S. and Pakistan had pursued the case more vigorously, we would have gotten earlier signs of the militancy inside Pakistan. Unbeknownst to Pearl, who was on the trail of “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, the reporter had walked into the lion’s den where the Pakistani militancy and al Qaeda meet. The Pearl Project has learned that The Wall Street Journal bureau chief was kidnapped by foot soldiers in the Pakistani militancy that is the “Punjabi Taliban,” many of the men coming out of Pakistan’s Punjab province, and he became al Qaeda’s next target of opportunity after the 9/11 attacks.

The Pearl Project learned that when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and the towers collapsed, he said, “Shit,” according to people familiar with interviews that he did with FBI agents in Guantanamo Bay. The FBI agents were part of a “clean team,” getting “clean” evidence against Mohammed. “I think we bit off more than we could chew,” he told the FBI. He worried how President Bush would respond, saying, “We had no idea what the cowboy would do.”

When the towers fell, Mohammed told the FBI, he thought, “We’ve awakened a sleeping bear.” Indeed, soon after, Mohammed’s buddies started dying in Afghanistan as the U.S. dropped bombs. One of the men killed: al Qaeda’s military chief, Mohammed Atef, a somber Egyptian strategist whose daughter was married to one of Osama bin Laden’s sons. In November 2001, as the U.S. shelled Afghanistan, Mohammed said, Atef was killed, and a top Qaeda leader, either Ayman al-Zawahiri or Saif al-Adel, sent Reid, the “shoe bomber,” to Mohammed; the hapless young man arrived in Karachi to meet him. “I was given all his crap,” Mohammed told the FBI, talking about Atef’s operatives. He didn’t want anything to do with Reid, said people familiar with the interview. “He said he looked like trouble.” Mohammed said he told Reid, “You better shave.” He said Reid responded, “I’ve been a drug dealer.”

Daniel in the Lion's Den Bible Story

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's decree Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.

The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians,
which altereth not.

Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.

Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him.

Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.

Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?

Then said Daniel unto the King, O king, live forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.

Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den.